After successive nights with northwesterly winds (unusual on Long Island in recent years), the barrier beach was predictably active both mornings this weekend. Although the light precip on Saturday morning apparently deterred a lot of my friends, it did not discourage the large group of intrepid elementary, middle, and high school science teachers who joined me on the Seatuck Teachers’ Ecology Workshop at the Fire Island Lighthouse Tract. And, as Glenn noted from the North Shore, bird activity was tremendous, despite the rain.
One theme that was hard to miss this weekend was the finch flight, which is building nicely this fall. Purple Finches are moving very heavily along the coast, and Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches were migrating in decent numbers yesterday. In addition, Pipits were conspicuous overhead both mornings, and there was a nice mix of early and late fall migrants in general. The most striking thing to me, however, and something I honestly don’t understand, was the ongoing and seemingly coordinated invasion by Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Red-breasted Nuthatches, which accelerated yesterday to an astonishing level. Red-bellied Woodpecker used to be rare on the barrier beach, and even into the early years of its abundance on the adjacent Long Island mainland, it remained scarcer on the beach than, for instance, Red-headed Woodpecker. In recent years, however, it has emerged as an irruptive migrant, occurring both spring and fall in highly variable numbers from year to year, with an overall trend toward increasing high counts. Before this year, my daily high count at Fire Island was 20. This was recorded almost as a footnote on the tremendous flight day of 25 October 2014, which was memorable in many ways, but which also was part of a season that featured Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, Red- and White-breasted Nuthatches, and various other forest-breeding species (check out the listserv archives!). Anyway, that total was smashed by some of my vismig colleagues on 30 September of this year, when they tallied 26 Red-bellied Woodpeckers in morning flight at Robert Moses SP. Crippled by jealousy since that day, I’d been yearning for a chance to see such things myself. And yesterday, it happened. Between 7:20 and 11:20, from a stationary position, my colleagues and I counted 71 Red-bellied Woodpeckers passing from east to west—possibly a new high count for New York State. We also counted 104 Red-breasted Nuthatches (and a locally notable total of five White-breasted Nuts—cruising through the airspace like miniature Red-bellies), as well as 37 Purple Finches and 83 Pine Siskins. I can understand why Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches fly in the same years, because their breeding ranges overlap so broadly that factors affecting one would naturally affect the other. But the breeding ranges of Red-bellied Woodpecker and Red-breasted Nuthatch are about as exclusive as is possible for areas of such size. Where are the woodpeckers coming from? Shai Mitra Bay Shore -- NYSbirds-L List Info: http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsWELCOME.htm http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsRULES.htm http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsSubscribeConfigurationLeave.htm ARCHIVES: 1) http://email@example.com/maillist.html 2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/NYSBirds-L 3) http://birding.aba.org/maillist/NY01 Please submit your observations to eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ --